UFC 198 was one of the deepest UFC shows in years, drew the biggest MMA crowd ever in Brazil, and ended with all but one of the key fights ending decisively.
We got a new heavyweight champion, a likely next contender at middleweight, someone who has a strong case for a title match at welterweight, wins by a couple of Brazilian legends on home turf and one of the year's great brawls.
Stipe Miocic (15-2) became the new face at the top of the heavyweight division, beating Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1). A frustrated Werdum immediately started pushing hard for a rematch. The fight ended quickly and decisively with Werdum trying to finish fast and Miocic, on his heels going backwards, hit a counter right that put Werdum down and out.
While the finish was not controversial in the least, it wasn't a fight that would convince Werdum or his fan base that it's any kind of a lock the rematch would go the same way. Miocic didn't dominate, he just landed a finishing blow that may or may not happen if they were rematched.
But with Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez, neither who has faced Miocic in the past, looming as contenders, as
well as Junior Dos Santos, Werdum will likely have to beat at least one top heavyweight before getting a shot.
It shakes up a division that had been dominated by Velasquez, Dos Santos and Werdum for more than five years, and hadn't developed any new strong contenders in a long time. Miocic has been on the UFC scene for five years, and has been established as a top-ten level fighters since a 2013 win over Roy Nelson. Werdum was his third straight knockout victim, following Mark Hunt, who isn't the easiest person to knock out, and Andrei Arlovski, the latter in 54 seconds.
Besides the new champion, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza finished the evening as the clear-cut next top contender at middleweight. and Demian Maia has to be considered for a future welterweight title shot. The crowd of 45,207 fans, breaking a record of 35,000 set for a 1968 fight with Euclides Periera vs. Carlson Gracie. And familiar names Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Cris "Cyborg" Justino and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira brought the crowd to its feet for wins.
Let's look at how Fortunes changed and future prospects for five of Saturday night's stars.
STIPE MIOCIC - The new champion is one of the most versatile athletes on the UFC roster. He was a strong enough Division I baseball player to get major league interest, As a heavyweight wrestler, he went to the NCAA tournament. He also boxed at the Golden Gloves level.
But this was his first pay-per-view main event and a fight at a different magnitude than anything he had done to date. He didn't sustain any serious damage, so he probably could be scheduled against Overeem (41-14, 1 no contest) as the most logical next opponent, given Velasquez isn't fighting until July 9. A dark horse is Dos Santos (18-4), who has a win over Miocic in a great fight on FOX on Dec. 13, 2014. But Overeem has a knockout of Dos Santos and a longer winning streak.
FABRICIO WERDUM - Werdum should face either Dos Santos, or Velasquez next, provided Velasquez beats Travis Browne. Velasquez is probably the bigger fight, but a Dos Santos fight can be made sooner.
Werdum should wait for Velasquez, if he does win over Browne, Werdum should be able to get a title rematch with a second win over Velasquez. A win over Dos Santos could get him the shot, but there would still be Velasquez in the picture. If Velasquez loses, then Dos Santos if the fight to make. At almost 39, Werdum has to make his move now.
RONALDO "JACARE" SOUZA - Souza (23-4, 1 no contest) looks to have locked himself into a title match at middleweight, facing the winner of the Luke Rockhold (15-2) vs. Chris Weidman (13-1) bout that takes place on June 4 in Los Angeles.
With the exception of a split decision loss to Yoel Romero, which was really a bad call, Souza hasn't lost since Rockhold beat him by decision in 2011. But both are far better fighters than they were back then. Souza has now won 15 of 17, mostly against name fighters, since the start of 2009.
Souza combines knockout power, takedown ability, fast reflexes with some of the best submission ability in the sport. He ran through Belfort in a one-sided manner and has largely fought like a top contender from his 2013 UFC debut.
CRIS CYBORG - The win by Cyborg (16-1, 1 no contest) over Leslie Smith just opens up all the much-talked about issues related to Invicta's featherweight champion.
At this point, Cyborg's big issue from having a number of big fights in front of her, all relates to weight. She made 139 pounds on Saturday. If she could make 136, it opens the door to big fights with Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm. But she claimed once again that she couldn't make that weight and talked of going back to Invicta and defending her title at 145 pounds.
With no name fighters in that division, that would put her back in the position of running through people quickly and none of her potential big fights being made.
At 139, there is very little UFC can do with her.
They could add a weight class, but the only decent fighters she could face at 145, or 139, would be 135ers that move up. She'd have the same kind of huge size edge that she had with Leslie Smith, only even more pronounced. There's little she can prove at that weight and unless she were to shed a lot of muscle, it would be difficult to make 135. So it's a stalemate that has led to her being considered always one of the top woman fighters in the world dating back a decade. Yes in that decade, with the exception of her Gina Carano win that is coming up on seven years ago, she's never come close to losing, nor has she had that another real big fight.
DEMIAN MAIA - Maia (23-6) moved up to the No. 4 contender at welterweight win his win over Matt Brown (22-14), behind only Stephen Thompson, Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley.
With champion Robbie Lawler looking likely to meet Woodley for the title on July 30, and Thompson vs. MacDonald on June 18, Maia could get a title shot provided MacDonald wins over Thompson in the last fight of his contract and leaves UFC. If that doesn't happen, his next fight should either be against the Thompson vs. MacDonald loser, or the winner of the July 9 Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum fight.
Maia can beat anyone on the ground, But he's vulnerable if he can't get the fight there. With Brown, he got it there in all three rounds.